Catalan leader says will proceed with October 1 independence referendum

Catalan bishops call for calm as Spain cracks down on independence vote

Spain's Europa Press news agency and other media outlets said the raids Wednesday mostly targeted the region's economic and foreign departments as Spanish authorities worked to halt all preparatory moves for the planned October 1referendum.

"It is of course entirely legitimate for Spain to oppose independence for Catalonia, but what I think is of concern anywhere is for a state to deny the right of a people to democratically express their will", she added.

A demonstration in Barcelona has been held for the past 24 hours to protest the arrests but it may now be suspended.

An Interior Ministry statement said the extra police will provide backing for Catalan regional police who are also under orders to prevent the staging of the referendum.




Authorities in the wealthy north-eastern region insist the vote will take place, even though Spain's Constitutional Court has ordered it to be suspended and the Madrid-based national government insists it is illegal. Police said up to 40,000 people gathered outside the devolved government's economy ministry in the city, which was searched. It didn't say how many extra police would be sent. They occupied a central cloister near the offices of the dean and other university officials.

Some are billeted in three ferries rented by the Spanish government and moored in the harbours of Barcelona and Tarragona because of both a shortage of temporary housing and to avoid clashes between protesters and police forces. But Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out it out for now, saying the United Kingdom needed certainty, stability, and strong leadership following last year's referendum, in which 52 percent of Britons voted leave the EU.

The central government is waging myriad legal battles to halt the October 1 referendum called by the pro-independence coalition ruling Catalonia, in northeastern Spain. Officers arrested a dozen regional government officials and seized around 10 million ballot papers this week.

Legal and judicial associations said Thursday's court protest was an attack on the judiciary's independence and should be ignored.

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